Assessing the breadth and depth of leadership skills

For a lot of business owners and leaders, reflecting on their leadership skills – the strengths and weaknesses – does not come naturally or easily.  The pressure to appear strong and not admit their weaknesses, to colleagues and even themselves, makes the process difficult for many.

I found the statement above on Be The Business and it resonates so much with what I see in businesses that I have worked in and with over the years.  We talk about the importance of leadership and the direct role it plays in a business’s success, and yet we struggle to make time to really assess our own or our team’s leadership capability.

Surveys conducted by widely respected institutions will report what they find to be thematic strengths and relative weaknesses – we know the general trends – but how do we know what is relevant and applicable to our own business?  How do we make sure we have the right leadership capabilities available to address the challenges we face?

Assessing leadership skills can be complex and sensitive, but you need an awareness and understanding of leadership that you can actually act on – you need actionable leadership insights if you’re trying to ensure leadership is a true enabler of business performance.

Developing leadership skills

If leadership plays an important role in how your business moves forward, you need to make sure you’re considering certain factors:

  • To deliver on your strategy, it’s essential to know whether you have the leadership skills and behaviours available in your team.
  • You should explore whether you are making best use of the leadership capability you already have.
  • With new and changing priorities, you may need to realign your leadership skills for a better fit.
  • You should examine whether you are able to effectively and efficiently meet changing client needs.

Leadership assessment can provide a boost in self-awareness, but actionable leadership insights can ensure you really understand the behavioural skills of your team.  Such insights help you deploy leadership talent effectively and address capability gaps where they exist.

These insights can also be critical when considering the skills and behaviours you’re looking for in future leaders – both inside and outside your organisation.  Most critically, it can also mean a clear effort to support leadership development in areas that your business needs most.

Actionable leadership insights

It’s useful to apply logical steps to ensure you conduct effective and objective leadership assessment and minimise the risk of bias or subjectivity creeping in.

  1. What are you assessing?

You need to identify and define the leadership skills and behaviours relevant for your business, or have chosen a leadership model that is relevant to your business priorities against which you are going to assess.  Anything that over-simplifies leadership into labels or categories is unlikely to lead to actionable insight.

  1. How are you assessing?

Choose valid and reliable methods that are most suitable for what you are assessing and what output you are looking for.  You may need to do further research or get specialist advice on selecting the best assessment tools and methods to meet your needs.

  1. Who is involved?

You will need to include the people being assessed, the people providing input, the people conducting the assessment and the recipient of the assessment results.  It is important to be clear from the outset who is going to be in which of these four groups, how they would be involved and what they should expect.

  1. Be objective

Treat leadership as a set of skills and behaviours that can be acquired and developed by anyone.  If you don’t think someone has the relevant skills to lead, then don’t ask them to lead.  However, don’t ask them to complete an assessment just so that you can use that against them.

Effective leadership

Leadership plays a critical role in any organisation, but you need to start by identifying the specific leadership skills and behaviours that are relevant for your business.  Identify your needs, assess your capability and then develop the skills and behaviours that will have the greatest impact on your business results.

If you want to hear more then please view this recording of a webinar we hosted on the same topic.

Blackmore Four are an independent Essex-based consulting company, offering specialist advice and tailored solutions to businesses looking to improve business performance.  Our approach is based on a deep understanding of human behaviour at work and an ability to identify and address the specific leadership and organisational development needs of your business.


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